jingeli xu



I knew about this program because one of our schoolmates got accepted to Trip of a Lifetime two years ago and she shared her experience with other students in our high school. I did not travel for long distance without my family before, so my family think it would be a good chance for me to be more independent. My family and my counselors encouraged me to apply. The process of applying was not that easy, I wrote short essays to talk about myself and did a phone interview. I was nervous after I finished my application because I thought I did not do my best on the interview. But fortunately, I received the update email from the program founder. I was so happy and looking forward to having a different summer.

In the early morning of first day of July, I started my 28 day-long summer adventure in California. “California is beach and ocean”, that was my first impression when I was on the bus to our home for the month, UC Santa Barbara. I could see the ocean and the beach around the highway when I looked out from the window. I could see the water was blue and the sea birds are white, the picture is healing. I got attracted to the beautiful view. The time that I actually getting familiar to my companions was at the first night activity. People introduced themselves and played games together. I knew more about the counselors’ job and how our trip would be in the month. I also met a girl who has the same birthday as me first time in my life. The first day of my trip was very tired but it was a good beginning too.

I loved Santa Barbara more when time passed. Santa Barbara is not a big city, it is unlike New York at all. I could feel relaxed when I walked on the street. People were not rushing their time, they were enjoyed the views on their way. In New York, the lifestyle is fast. People always miss something beautiful on their way. The people that I met in Santa Barbara were mostly very friendly. I still remember the first afternoon elective that I had. We were riding a four-people bike on State Street, all four of us are girls and we do not have a driving licence. We did not know about the traffic rules, our bike were on the road. When the people on the street saw our girls, they were a little concerned and told us they would like to help. Their smile were like our sunshine in the cold winter. They were two ladies helped us to get out of the trouble when our bike get stuck at the street corner and we were not strong enough to turn the bike around. That really made our day and we did really appreciate their help.

We would visit Los Angeles on every weekends.My favorite places that I had been on my trip were Warner Brother Studios and Universal Studios. My favorite TV show is The Big Bang Theory and Warner Brother was the production company. I went to the real scenes where they filmed the show. I also saw the stage where Ellen works. The Fast and Furious is my favorite series of movie. I was able to see the real cars that they used in the movies. I also learned about how people work behind the scenes, how they made the impossible became possible. That was one of my coolest experiments during my trip.

I had my community service at Unity Shoppe. It is a place provides food, household product, clothing, and school supplies for low income family and homeless people. It is different from the usual food bank. It provides more types of products and the important thing is people have the same process of shopping at Unity Shoppe, they just do not need to pay at last. They can choose the items that they prefer, they can make their choices in their life. They are not just receiving and doing nothing. Though the people who come here are not rich, but their attitude is positive and have hope. They show their good life attitude to their family and try their best to make their life better. When I help the people who come in, I will ask their preference first and they will tell me what they like or their family will like. I always hear different stories from different people every days. I saw a little girl who came in with her mother and that day was her birthday. Her mother chose a beautiful birthday cake for her and select the food that she likes. They decided to go to beach and celebrate the girl’s birthday there. The little girl also got her fifth birthday gift from the Unity Shoppe before they left. I also saw a homeless man came in with his dog. His dog is his only family. The only canned food that he chose was for his dog. I can not forget the smile that he had when he made eye contact with his buddy. They are helping each other in their lives, they are the most important one in their lives. I learn a lot from the community service experience. The most important thing that I learned is have hope and never lose love in our life. Life is hard but there are also many beautiful things in our life. And “neighbors can neighbors” in our life, show your concern when you see someone struggling in their life, give them a hand. Let them feel hope is still there.